Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Back to the Future: OUTATIME Review

Back to the Future: Episode 4 – Double Visions
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Platforms: PC, Mac, iPad, and PlayStation 3

This is it. We finally have the last episode of the five-episode season of Back to the Future: The Game. If you don’t already know by this point, Back to the Future: The Game is developed by Telltale Games as a point-and-click adventure game. You control Marty McFly as he travels back in time to save Doc Brown and fixes any problems along the way that may alter the future.

I’m not going to go over too much of the story, but OUTATIME answers the lingering story threads and, at the same time, introduces new ones. That is only my real complaint. As opposed to the previous episode, Double Visions, OUTATIME did not linger on until the end. In fact, there were a couple stand-out puzzle moments, such as Marty trying to help jog Edna's memory, and the Delorean chase sequence. The Delorean scene might feel reused to some (it’s appeared in two episodes prior) but with the inclusion of the hoverboard this time around makes it reminiscent of Marty trying to get the sports almanac from Biff’s car in Back to the Future Part II. The puzzle where Marty is helping Doc jog Edna’s memory is the last sequence before heading into the final conclusion of the game. If the game were a role-playing game, it would be that last mission before the final boss where every seemingly useless item in your inventory finally reveals its purpose.

The main feature touted by Telltale in this episode was the appearance of Michael J. Fox as the voice of a character. When the game began development, he was originally unavailable to voice Marty McFly, which is why A.J. LoCascio was brought aboard. In OUTATIME, Fox voices Williams McFly, Marty’s great-grandfather who appeared in Back to the Future Part III. His presence towards the end of the episode creates a dues ex machina situation. It doesn’t make sense, but works to move forward the story.

The biggest sin of not making sense, though, is the end of OUTATIME. After Doc and Marty set the timeline right in 1931 and 1876, they return to 1986 were things are back to normal, for the most part. In this timeline, Doc never disappeared and is instead staying part-time in his mansion with Clara and his kids. They also discover Edna now loves dogs and is married to Kid Tannen, who she met in jail. Doc gives Marty a graduation gift; a book of the family history of the McFlys, which was his original reason for traveling back to 1931. This is where the game should have ended, because what comes after it is so convoluted and fragmented that it feels like it was inserted as a ‘what if’ scenario or someone asked ‘wouldn’t it be cool if,’ but never followed through with.

Doc and Marty are startled when three separate DeLoreans appear each with a future version of Marty asking Doc and Marty to come back to the future to help fix their different timelines. As the three different future versions of Marty argue which is the correct future, Doc and Marty take off in their DeLorean, jumping to an unknown point in time to investigate the new timeline alterations. This hanging point doesn’t give any kind of closure to the five episodes and instead just leaves the player back where they started.

Up until this point I haven’t talked about bugs or technical problems in any of the episodes, and that’s because there weren't any. However, in OUTATIME a game-stopping bug appeared about a quarter through the game that abrupted all progress forward, or back. In the House of Glass the walls are supposed to be slideable, creating a puzzle where you must slide the right combination of walls to find where Doc took young Emmett Brown. The problem, though, is that upon entering the House of Glass none of the walls are usable. You should be able to hover over them with the cursor and slide a wall, but instead they act as fixed walls. You can’t even exit the House of Glass because the door you entered through is not usable either. You can try to reload an earlier game, but depending on whether you talked to one of the characters before entering the House of Glass, the bug will just repeat itself. Telltale has since fixed the bug, but it’s odd that after four episodes something like this popped up in the final one.

It’s hard to sum up OUTATIME without taking into consideration all five episodes of Back to the Future: The Game. I’ll be posting an overall wrap-up of the season soon that will point out the highlights and mistakes the game took. In the meantime, I can say this for sure, if you enjoy the Back to the Future franchise, play this game and all five of the episodes. The charming nature of the game and its characters still hold appeal over from the films, and if you’re like me where it’s ingrained in childhood nostalgia, you’ll find enjoyment even in the low points.

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